Life Lessons from 30 years travelling the Globe

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I’ve been living and travelling all over the world for the last 30 years and here are my most important life lessons:

1) Experiences are more important than things

It’s pretty much a no-brainer that experiences bring longer lasting happiness and memories than things. Having a fancy car or a big house might bring temporary happiness, but eventually the novelty wears off and it just creates more cravings for even bigger and more expensive things without bringing long term happiness. Things are transitory while experiences remain with you forever and they can never be taken away from you.

Over the years, I have moved to a minimalistic lifestyle, gradually getting rid of all my stuff. A few years ago, I got it down to 2 boxes of clothes, a bike, laptop and camera. The more you travel see how people in less developped countries are much happier and have much less than we do.

Travel makes you speechless and then makes you a storyteller

Ibn Battuta

2) Treat Time as a Commodity

The ancient Roman Stoic Philosopher Seneca once said, treat time as a commodity, like money. Time is actually more valuable than money: money comes and goes – you can gain it, lose it, then gain it back again. But time you can never get back. Would you stand on the street handing out 10 € notes to random strangers? Of course not. So, why give your time and attention away so cheaply and easily by doom scrolling on social media.

You have been preoccupied while life hastens on. Meanwhile death will arrive and you have no choice making yourself available for that


Many people spend their whole life working thinking that if they only work harder and get the next promotion then they will be happy. However, this is never-ending and once you achieve your career goals, you are invariably disappointed when you find it has not made you happy. No highly successful people say on their death bed when asked about their biggest regrets, that they didn’t spend enough time working. Mostly, they regret spending less time with family and friends.

We spend the best part of our life earning money to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it

Henry David Thoreau

Bill Perkins in his book, Die with Zero, suggested a alternative life philosophy. If you work hard and safe your entire life, by the time you retire you will be not able physically to achieve your goals and by that point it will be too late. He advocates making a bucket list and setting out a timeline for when you want to achieve those goals while you still have your youth and health. Spend the money on experiences rather than saving for retirement. It’s a fine balancing act of course, but ideally you should die with no money left, having spent it all or having given it all away. This is the lifestyle I have lead over the last 30 years. Travel as much as possible and enjoy all the opportunities and delights that travel brings while I am still able bodied and capable of doing it. For example, with my dodgy knee, I doubt I would be able to climb Mt Kilimanjaro these days. I am too old now for attending amazing music festivals in exotic locations, but I am so glad I did these things while I still had the chance and no-one can take these experiences away from me.

3) Appreciate what you have

Travelling helps you build a sense of gratitude. In our modern society, we don’t appreciate how lucky we are. We have all the incredible luxuries of modern society at our finger-tips – internet, a reliable electricity supply, a sewerage system that doesn’t get blocked, fresh running water, heating, etc. We also enjoy political freedoms like the right to vote and free speech and relatively little corruption. The vast majority of the world’s population live below the poverty line and many in dictatorial countries where political oppression, torture and murder are standard practice, or even in war zones. Spend a little time in some of these countries and see how people live. Despite their very hard lives, they are happy with what little they have. Take a moment to reflect on your own life and how lucky you were to be born in a rich country before you complain that the foam on your latte is not fluffy enough.

There are at least a billion people on earth at this moment who would consider their prayers answered if they could trade places with yo

Sam Harris

This point was brought home to me at the end of my disastrous extreme camping adventure in the Amazon jungle. After 3 days in the middle of nowhere attacked by giant mosquitos, covered in mud and having had to shoot and roast a monkey for dinner, me and my friends were about ready to kill each other. Finally, when we returned to the “home base”, the house of the family who hosted us, my buddy turned to me and said: “I bet you appreciate having internet now, right?” Although the house was just a floor supported on stilts with four corner beams supporting a thatch roof, with no windows – it seemed like a 5 star hotel!

4) Treat people with compassion

It’s easy to get irritated with someone from a different culture if you feel they are not meeting your high expectations of behaviour, communication, etc. Travelling allows you to see how people in other cultures behave and communicate with each other. Culture is ingrained in us from birth from our parents and later our teachers. We bring this cultural influence with us every day to work. Seeing how other cultures do things differently, gives you a different perspective and allows you to treat them with compassion because you can see things from their point of view.

For example, in many countries there is a culture of honour – especially in the Middle East and South Asia. These cultures tend to feel shame whereas Western cultures feel more guilt. The concept of “saving face” is integral to this world view and it is therefore important not to shame people in public. In these cultures, it is better to give the wrong answer than admit you don’t know. In others, especially in Africa, if the question is too direct, people give the answer to another question, not the question that was asked. This is a subtle hint to tell the person asking the question to back off.

So, next time when your colleague from South India answers “yes” all the time to your questions in front of the team (Do you understand? Yes. Is it finished? Yes. And so on), reflect on your own behaviour and ask yourself if you need to change rather than getting frustrated when not getting a straight answer.

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well

Ralph Waldo Emerson

5) It’s never to late to change

Many people as they get older get stuck in a rut, are stuck in cycles of addiction to drugs (alcohol, caffeine and nicotine), have bad diets and do no exercise. This leads to an attitude of resignation and the idea that it is too late to change. Travelling opens your mind to new possibilities. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone and transporting yourself to a completely new environment allows you to break destructive habits and form new ones – it starts a virtuous cycle and breaks vicious ones.

It is never too late to be what you might have been

George Elliot

A few years ago I participated in an Ayahuasca retreat in the Colombian countryside. One of the wise elders (known as Taitas) made a speech. His main message was: It’s never too late to change, no matter how old you are. It’s a big, wide world. Get out there, live your dreams and see all the possibilities the world has to offer.

* Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

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